This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
Diamonds in the Rough By Gail Banzet-Ellis


Before attending the camp, alumnus G.W. Hale (third from right - back row) also played on a sixth-grade all-star team from Tulsa that visited Chandler to play the camp’s “midget” team in 1974. Photo courtesy of G.W. Hale


How 40 years of Belcher family baseball prepared young boys for the game of life


S


pring is in the air, but the boys of summer already are back in action. From the mightiest of T-ball players to the men of the major leagues, baseball season is here. The sport can stir a lot of memories among those who have played the game, but for men who attended the his-


toric Chandler Baseball Camp just off Route 66, to remember is pure nostalgia. “It was a storybook experience and such a magical time in our lives,” says


G.W. Hale who attended the camp as a teenager for four years in the 1970s. His Chandler Baseball Camp jersey hangs proudly today on a wall in his home. “There were no frills—all you did was eat, sleep and drink baseball.” Hale is one of thousands of camp alumni who traveled to Chandler from around Oklahoma and the world to learn the fundamentals of not only baseball but also life from local baseball coach Bo Belcher. The camp was established in 1958 when Belcher leased from the city 60 acres of rolling grassy hills and trees on the west edge of Chandler. He and his family lived on the site and oversaw all camp operations. “The Belcher family exemplifi ed baseball,” says 80-year-old Bill Tipton, a retired Oklahoma high school teacher and coach who worked at the camp for 10 years. “In the history that’s followed our time there, it’s very evident that we instilled in those boys the right way to play the game. I enjoyed every bit of it.” The place was a true test of manhood for some of its youngest campers. Each two- or three-week session welcomed around 200 boys to learn the game of baseball in four age divisions ranging from 8 to 18. Dallas businessman David Netherly attended in the 1960s and credits his life achievements to the hot


16 WWW.OK-LIVING.COOP


summer days he spent playing ball in Chandler. “I grew up in Oklahoma City, and I’d never been away from my parents for


that length of time,” he says. “It was very hard work. The coaches expected a lot, but it brought out the best in us—it was a great life lesson.” For more than four decades, campers stayed in small wooden bunkhouses with no air conditioning. The grounds featured a large military-style mess hall, a shower room, offi ce and coaches’ cabin. Four fi elds, one for each age division, sprawled over the rolling hills. Counselors, many of whom played baseball at local colleges, were assigned to live with the campers. Geoff Metheny grew up in the area and attended three times in the late 1980s before eventually becoming a camp counselor and coach. Today, he is the head baseball coach at Chandler High School and says the camp infl uenced his career choice.


“It was the greatest thing ever because I got to play baseball all day long,” he


says. “We did drills and fundamentals, and the coaches taught us all how to play every position. The whole experience was awesome.” Belcher enforced a rigorous routine at the camp with almost every minute focused on baseball. Each morning, the wake-up call sounded at 7:30 when “Stars and Stripes” blared from the facility’s loudspeaker. Campers rolled out of their bunks for breakfast before taking the fi eld. After lunch, they returned to their positions for another few hours of exercises and drills. Following din- ner, campers geared up for primetime—every night, they scrimmaged each other or played local visiting teams. When Bo passed away, his son, Tom, took over management of the camp


Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87  |  Page 88  |  Page 89  |  Page 90  |  Page 91  |  Page 92  |  Page 93  |  Page 94  |  Page 95  |  Page 96  |  Page 97  |  Page 98  |  Page 99  |  Page 100  |  Page 101  |  Page 102  |  Page 103  |  Page 104  |  Page 105  |  Page 106  |  Page 107  |  Page 108  |  Page 109  |  Page 110  |  Page 111  |  Page 112  |  Page 113  |  Page 114  |  Page 115  |  Page 116  |  Page 117  |  Page 118  |  Page 119  |  Page 120  |  Page 121  |  Page 122  |  Page 123  |  Page 124  |  Page 125  |  Page 126  |  Page 127  |  Page 128  |  Page 129  |  Page 130  |  Page 131  |  Page 132  |  Page 133  |  Page 134  |  Page 135  |  Page 136  |  Page 137  |  Page 138  |  Page 139  |  Page 140  |  Page 141  |  Page 142  |  Page 143  |  Page 144  |  Page 145  |  Page 146  |  Page 147  |  Page 148  |  Page 149  |  Page 150  |  Page 151  |  Page 152  |  Page 153  |  Page 154  |  Page 155  |  Page 156  |  Page 157  |  Page 158  |  Page 159  |  Page 160  |  Page 161  |  Page 162  |  Page 163  |  Page 164  |  Page 165  |  Page 166  |  Page 167  |  Page 168  |  Page 169  |  Page 170  |  Page 171  |  Page 172  |  Page 173  |  Page 174  |  Page 175  |  Page 176  |  Page 177  |  Page 178  |  Page 179  |  Page 180  |  Page 181  |  Page 182  |  Page 183  |  Page 184  |  Page 185  |  Page 186  |  Page 187  |  Page 188  |  Page 189  |  Page 190  |  Page 191  |  Page 192  |  Page 193  |  Page 194  |  Page 195  |  Page 196  |  Page 197  |  Page 198  |  Page 199  |  Page 200  |  Page 201  |  Page 202  |  Page 203  |  Page 204